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Dixon of Threadneedle Street plan threatens confusion

Hosing down cybercrims with alphabet soup

City of London police are to trial the use of specialist squads to tackle data theft and other crimes against business.

Three pilot units of specialist officers will begin work next month, tackling problems ranging from data theft to terrorism.

Each squad will feature five officers trained in tackling different forms of crime relevant to businesses, ranging from data theft and physical security breaches to terrorist threats. The initiative is designed to reassure businesses that the City of London is a safe and secure place to do business.

Other police forces are being urged to set up new specialist squads along the lines pioneered by the City of London police, the Financial Times reports.

Mike Bowron, City police commissioner and project executive, told the FT that the units represent a corporate twist on the well tried concept of neighbourhood-focused community policing. The squads would provide standard "bobby on the beat" services such as the handling of crime reporting for workers, freeing them from the need to report crimes to their local police stations after a lengthy commute.

Instead of a flying squad for the pin-stripe brigade the unit would thus be more akin to Dixon of Dock Green or perhaps, in this case, Threadneedle Street.

The City of London Police is the lead policing force in the fight against cybercrime. Quite who businesses need to deal with in the event of cybercrime remains unclear. Certainly there's now no shortage of agencies involving in the fight against hacking, malware, phishing and online fraud in one way or another, as we attempt to summarise below:

  1. National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) at City of London Police and its investigative arm, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), are due to begin operation in summer. It will become the lead agency for e-crime reporting.
  2. The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit, also within the City of London force but paid for by the banking industry, investigates big financial frauds.
  3. The Police Central E-crime Unit (PCeU), based in Scotland Yard, provides specialist computer forensics training and coordinate efforts to fight cybercrime across multiple police forces. The unit also has a role in investigations, leading an investigation against an alleged network of banking Trojan suspects that led to arrests last month. The unit was created after intense lobbying from industry two years after the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) was amalgamated into the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.
  4. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has an e-crime unit but this is focused on high-level trans-national crime.
  5. Specialist computer crime units in police forces such as Greater Manchester and North Wales.
  6. Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), a police organisation focused on the fight against child abuse and online pornography, which arguably has the clearest remit.

Consumers who fall victim to financial fraud are currently advised to contact their banks, at least initially. Recently we heard from a security researcher who experienced all sorts of problems attempting to report a cybercrime server, first to his local police force and then the SOCA. Cybercrime reporting remains a problem which hopefully the NFRC will address.

How the specialist squads due to be trailed in the City of London fit into this mix remain unclear. In theory they might serve as the public face of NFRC, among their many other roles.

Things were a lot clearer in the halcyon days of the NHTCU but even then there was a fair bit of rivalry between it and Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit, with officers from the latter often complaining (with some justification) that they achieved similar if not superior "results" with more limited manpower and financial resources. ®

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